“Audubon’s mission has always been about protecting birds, other wildlife, and their habitats,” explains Larry Taft, executive director of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. “We do this through environmental conservation, education, and advocacy. People are drawn to the organization for many reasons and through different interests. For example, if you live in Coventry, you may have hiked the trails with a naturalist at the Maxwell Mays Wildlife Refuge. In Providence, you may have gone bird watching with Audubon at Swan Point Cemetery. If you live near Bristol or Smithfield, your children may have explored nature at our summer camps.”
Audubon’s Environmental Education Center in Bristol engages thousands of students each year in hands-on nature explorations. Many are from urban communities, where access to nature is limited. “The Center offers programs at low or no cost to school districts across the state, and relies on outside financial support. It is vital to reach out and educate children about the natural world. The next generation will not view a saltwater marsh as important to preserve unless they learn about it at a young age,” Larry states.
Of Audubon’s advocacy work, he says, “We stood up, early on, for the protection of our habitats and natural resources. We continue to advocate for the protection of wetlands and clean water, and promote sustainable living.”
Larry notes that Audubon protects 9,500 acres of woodlands and coastal property in 30 of Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns, with 95% of the land having been donated to the organization. “One of our aspirations going forward is to make sure we have the financial capacity to effectively steward the land we own,” Larry notes.
While the Foundation currently has funds for Audubon, most are designated, all or in part, for the upkeep of specific Audubon properties. “This new fund is designed to support Audubon across all mission areas,” explains Larry. “It will enable us to reach new donors and share with them the critical work that Audubon is leading across the state in environmental conservation, education, and advocacy.”